The sizzling summer is subsiding, farm markets are bulging and you are SO into relaxing. So invite your friends over for a laid-back dinner that features fresh food, simple preps and dishes that can be made in advance. That was the plan for my turn at a Fare Ladies, round-robin dinner. The two Fare Ladies who are guests (Billa and Michele for this dinner) each prepare one dish that fits the dinner’s theme.
We had the pleasure of hosting this dinner for Barbara and Bill Silverman. Bill prepared the beautiful cover for our next book, to be published later this year: The Dish on Dazzling Dinners. Bill does a great job on covers as you can see from ours below. For some of Bill's interesting videos, visit his YouTube posting page https://www.youtube.com/@MrWHS67/videos.
With all dishes prepared at least one day ahead, there was little to do on the day of the dinner party except final assembly. What a joy!
Marinated Mushrooms and Artichokes, Ceringnola Olives Egg Salad Spread with Garlic and Dill Brie and Mascarpone Spread with Lavender and Rosemary Cheeses: Blue and Boursin SOUP
Chilled Cantaloupe and Orange
Poached Salmon with Pistachio Vinaigrette
Basmati Rice with Onion, Garlic and Parsley
Corn with Multi-Color Peppers
Lime Cake with Lime Frosting
Serve the appetizers with a crusty loaf of French or Italian bread and some crispy crackers.
The Relish Tray; Marinated Mushrooms and Artichokes, Ceringnola Olives
Simple but cool with zesty tastes.
Purchase the ingredients 2-3 days ahead. Arrange on tray several hours ahead. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or keep at room temperature if the day is not too hot.
Egg Salad Spread with Garlic and Dill
Egg salad is a summer favorite and great as an appetizer spread. Enliven the basic taste with garlic and dill.
Hard boil eggs (3 was enough for 8 people) 1-2 days ahead. Process the yolks and white together. Mix with equal parts of sour cream and mayo. Add a small amount of garlic and a generous amount of dill.
Another Spread: Brie and Mascarpone with Lavender and Rosemary
Prepare 1-2 days ahead. Mix equal amounts of brie and mascarpone with fresh culinary lavender (1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried per cup of cheese mixture) and finely chopped fresh rosemary (1/2 teaspoon per cup of cheese mixture). Refrigerate until 1 hour before serving.
Cheeses: Blue and Boursin
Purchase 1 or 2 days ahead. Serve on a cheese board.
SOUP Michele’s Chilled Cantaloupe and Orange
As refreshing as a cool breeze on a hot day, as delicious and sweet as summer fruit gets, as lovely as a colorful flower and easy to make a day ahead.
3 medium cantaloupes, rind removed, cut into chunks
1 container of Greek coconut-flavored yogurt
Using a blender, purée cantaloupe in batches until no large bits appear. Place in large mixing bowl.
Zest two of the oranges and set aside.
Juice all 3 oranges and add to puréed cantaloupe.
Add zest, mix well and chill overnight.
Ladle soup into bowls. Top with a spoonful of coconut yogurt. If desired, add additional garnish, such as the little umbrella shown in the photo.
The guests were all fish lovers, but what fish can be prepared a day ahead and retain good flavor? Poached salmon fits the bill. Rice is always nice with fish and fresh corn is at peak flavor.
Poached Wild Salmon with Pistachio Vinaigrette
Don’t we all (or most of us) love it? Wild salmon - soft flesh with a creamy mouth feel and delicious, savory taste. Don’t forget appearance. It’s an orangey/pink so lovely the color gets its own name: salmon. As for health benefits, there are too many to list here, but a principle one is cardiovascular health.
You can pan fry, bake, grill or, my favorite way, especially in summer, poach the fish. Poaching seems to increase its rich, moist, soft, creamy characteristics. Served barely warm and the fish is the perfect summer dish. You may poach the fish a day ahead and keep it refrigerated in the poaching liquid until ready to warm up before serving. Poaching allows for a variety of flavors in the poaching liquid. In this case, I chose a simple liquid that would preserve the basic salmon taste, allowing for a zesty vinaigrette to provide and interesting and colorful complement to the salmon.
Note: Culinary commenters of all kinds consider wild-caught salmon superior to farmed salmon in taste and health benefits.
For the fish (serves 8):
2 1/2 cups sauvignon blanc or other white wine
2 1/2 cups water
1 large shallot, skin removed, sliced
2 1/2 pounds salmon fillet
For the pistachio vinaigrette:
⅓ cup salted roasted pistachios (coarsely chopped)
⅓ cup very finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons small capers (rinsed)
2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns (crushed)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
Preparation For the fish:
In a large skillet, bring wine, water and shallot slices to a boil.
Gently place the salmon, skin side down, in the poaching liquid and lower heat to keep the fish at a gentle simmer. The poaching liquid should just cover the fish. Add more wine and/or water if necessary. Cover the skillet and simmer for about 8 minutes or more if salmon is thick.
Fish is done when a fork flakes the fish flesh. At this point you may serve the fish or remove the fish from the heat, cover it, cool and refrigerate in the poaching liquid overnight. Gently reheat just before serving.
For the pistachio vinaigrette:
In a jar, combine the pistachios with the shallots, capers, vinegar, sugar, pink peppercorns and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil; season with sea salt. Refrigerate overnight.
To Serve: Place salmon on dinner plate and top with a generous portion of vinaigrette.
Basmati Rice with Onion and Clove (serves 8)
Rice is nice, especially in summer, for it feels less weighty than other grains or potatoes. Basmati rice is my favorite for its nutty taste.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, diced small
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, boiled
1 1/2 cups basmati rice
Salt to taste
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt butter and sauté the onion until soft. Add rice and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until rice has turned color.
Meanwhile, bring stock to a boil and add stock, cloves and salt to pot. Stir once, cover pot and simmer for 17 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
You may cover and refrigerate overnight or prepare 6 hours in advance. Gently reheat before serving.
Corn with Multi-Color Peppers (serves 8)
Fresh corn is wonderful. A few years ago, super-sweet corn appeared in farm markets and now, in all the produce sections I encounter. Super-sweet corn is what it says and the taste is a joy. Also, in contrast with older varieties, super-sweet corn retains its freshness for five days or more.
The varieties usually available are yellow, bi-color and white, in increasing order of sweetness…and my decreasing preference. I find yellow more fully flavored and white corn’s sweetness cloying. Many disagree.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups bell peppers in green, red and yellow
3 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob just before cooking
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, heat the butter. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add peppers and sauté until softened somewhat. You may put the onions and peppers in a container and refrigerate overnight.
As much as 2 hours before serving, cut the kernels from the cobs. Add to skillet with onions and pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes. Cover if preparing in advance and warm before serving.
SALAD Billa’s Cole Slaw
(serves 8 with lots leftover)
This is an adaptation of several recipes into one. I like having raisins for a sweet touch and vinegar and mustard for tang. Ingredients 1/2 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup sour cream 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 2 and 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard 1/4 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 medium head of red cabbage 1/2 medium head of green cabbage. 3 medium carrots, peeled and shredded 1/2 cup raisins 1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped Preparation
Two days before serving: In a small bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 48 hours.
One day before serving: Cut the cabbage halves in half and finely shred. Place in a large bowl. Add the carrots, raisins and parsley; toss to mix. Add dressing and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for 24 hours.
DESSERT Lime Cake with Lime Frosting
Limes seem so suitable to summer. The taste is tart, sweet, bright and lively. Lime cakes are not very common and that’s a shame. Try this one. It is yummy.
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter softened
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lime zest
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup lime juice
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese room temperature
1 tablespoon lime zest
6 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper and butter the paper.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the lime zest and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy.
Stir the buttermilk and lemon juice together.
Add a third of the flour mixture and stir briefly. Add half of the buttermilk mixture. Stir until just combined. Repeat those additions and then finish by adding the last of the flour mixture.
Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool.
In a large mixing bowl beat the butter and cream cheese together until creamy. Add the lime zest and beat until light and fluffy.
Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until well combined. Beat in the lime juice and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy.
If freezing (as I did), cool the cake layers in their pans. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and freeze. Freeze the frosting separately. On the morning of the dinner, take the cake layers and frosting from the freezer and keep at room temperature. Several hours ahead of dinner time, frost the cake as usual for two layers. If a garnish is desired, a green maraschino cherry will look cute.